Kentucky College Football Preview

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Kentucky may not be challenging for the SEC East title just yet, but this team is at least showing promise under Mark Stoops, who is entering his third season as the Wildcats head coach. After only two wins in 2013, they finished one short of a bowl Game last season. Granted, they started 5-1, but they beat South Carolina along the way, went to three overtimes with Florida and almost won at Louisville in the season finale. Their offensive coordinator left for a head-coaching job and they’ll bring in Shannon Dawson, formerly of West Virginia.

If you feel Kentucky can win the National Championship in 2015-2016 than you can make one heck of a Scoreas they are listed at odds of 500 to 1 at 5 dimes sportsbook to win it all. They are listed at odds of 80 to 1 to win the SEC.

Dawson won’t change too many things on the offensive end, but he will have a number of experienced players to work with. The biggest question in spring practices was the quarterback battle between last year’s starter Patrick Towles and redshirt freshman Drew Barker. ACCording to Stoops, he was pleased with both guys after spring practices, although the decision on the starter won’t be named until the fall. Towles finished 2014 with a 57.4% completion rate to go with 14 TDs and nine interceptions.

The quarterback will have enough returning talent around him for this offense to improve. Leading receiver Ryan Timmons returns, and while a couple others are gone, they still have plenty of returning guys with potential to be a better passing team. The running Game returns most of its major players as well with Stanley Williams the likely starter in the unit. They used a mix of backs last year, and that’ll probably be the case again with Jojo Kemp and Mikel Horton also back.

The Wildcats scored just under 30 points per Game last year, but with enough returning talent, this team should reach that 30-point mark this season.

The defense is a slightly different story that loses a couple NFL-talent level players in Bud Dupree and Za’Darius Smith. Even with those guys busting loose on the ends, this team still gave up tons of points in their six-Game losing streak to end the season. That includedallowing at least 40 points in five of those Games.

But one thing Stoops and the coaches have done since arriving two years ago is developing players, and that was seen in guys like Dupree and Smith. The defense will still have leading tackler Josh Forrest at linebacker who came out of nowhere and guys coming up like Ryan Flannigan and end Farrington Huguenin. While they have some big names to replace, improvement for this growing team is expected.

Once again, Kentucky’s early-season Schedule helps out a ton. Five of their first six Games are at home, with the only road Game coming at a beatable South Carolina team. They get Florida and Missouri in back-to-back home Games, and those aren’t all that daunting after giving both of them fits in 2014. And then before their Schedule gets tougher, the Wildcats get a bye week and play Auburn on a Thursday night. Road Games against Mississippi State and Georgia will be tough, but this is a Schedule that could easily see Kentucky reach a bowl Game.

With improvement on both sides of the football and a favorable Schedule, this team should be headed for six wins.

2015 Kentucky Football Schedule

Sept. 5 vs. LA-LAfayette
Sept 12 at South Carolina
Sept. 19 vs. Florida
Sept. 26 vs. Missouri
Oct. 3 vs. Eastern Kentucky
Oct. 15 vs. Auburn
Oct. 24 at Mississippi State
Oct. 31 vs. Tennessee
Nov. 7 at Georgia
Nov. 14 at Vanderbilt
Nov. 21 vs. Charlotte
Nov. 28 vs. Louisville